Pamela Geiger Stephens, Phd
For any subject taught…, we might ask [is it] worth an adult’s knowing, and whether having known it as a child makes a person a better adult.
Jerome Bruner, 1960. The Process of Education
Photo by Bob Stephens
Photo manipulation by Jim McNeill
Bruner’s statement is essential to my philosophy of teaching in and through the visual arts. Regardless of when or where a subject is taught--whether to children in primary schools or adults in graduate programs--the eventual value of any subject lies in how that subject affects understanding and life-long learning.
It is my conviction that the visual arts and visual arts education are subjects worth knowing. For this fundamental reason, my mission in education is to provide meaningful teaching in and through the visual arts while making connections to various areas of learning and real life experiences. This is accomplished by approaching the visual arts as a hub for all learning. Finding meaning in artworks
throughout history and from diverse traditions affords broad learning opportunities for students from varying social, economic, and cultural backgrounds.
All students under my direction are provided a non-critical learning environment; a learning environment that values cultural and social differences, recognizes divergent learning styles, and encourages deep thinking and better cognition. This type of learning environment requires interactive participation between my students and me. It is not a situation that relies upon regurgitation of textbook knowledge and skills; rather, it is a situation that makes students responsible for individual learning and personal demonstrations of competence. It is a learning situation that empowers students in their own cognitive development.
In practical terms, my teaching approach is one of modeling, coaching, and self-reflection. It is impossible for me to have all the answers and to be everything to every student. When students witness an instructor searching for answers along with them, their own learning processes are validated. This tandem learning environment creates (in my opinion) a healthy classroom that encourages students to be risk-taking team players rather than passive bystanders of their own education.
My classroom suggests that gaps in knowledge are opportunities for learning; that contradictions are a part of our information society; that collaboration stimulates new ways of seeing and knowing; and re-thinking of ideas or understandings are a part of continued growth.